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UF Graduate Students Utilize “Skype in the Classroom” to Teach the Science of Mosquitoes, Careers in Entomology

Mosquitoes are one of the deadliest animals in the world. Now middle and high school student across the globe will have an opportunity to hear directly from scientists at the University of Florida about how they are working to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses.

Utilizing “Skype in the Classroom,” The Science of Mosquitoes project is part of the Prevent and Protect program developed by the UF/IFAS Center for Public Issues Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources. The Skype in the Classroom activity, funded by the Florida Department of Health, is one of the many ways students at UF are helping to share science with younger students.

“We intend for one of the main takeaways [for the students] to be a greater understanding of the biology of mosquitoes,” said Rachel Atchison, an entomology and nematology master’s student in the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. With the capability to carry and transmit diseases to humans, mosquitoes cause millions of deaths each year.

Passionate about science communication, Atchison has previously visited classrooms, summer camps and school festivals and led discussions or activities related to insects. This will be her first time participating in a dialogue with students via Skype.

Featured as one of the Skype in the Classroom Earth Day activities, The Science of Mosquitoes presentation will be available to global audiences six times throughout April lasting 30-45 minutes each. The “digital field trip” will include an overview of mosquitoes and mosquito research conducted through UF/IFAS as well as an opportunity for questions.

So far, classrooms in Egypt, Pakistan, Vietnam, Pennsylvania, Maine and Florida have registered for The Science of Mosquitoes. CALS undergraduate students studying agricultural education who are completing their teaching internships this spring will also utilize the presentation in their classrooms. CALS students and UF/IFAS faculty are developing mosquito science lesson plans to complement the Skype session.

“The Skype in the Classroom or Skype a Scientist programs are great ways to reach outside of our immediate Gainesville community and provide opportunities for dialogue between scientists and classrooms,” Atchison said.

Atchison joins six additional students in the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences working on this project with faculty in the UF/IFAS agricultural education and communication department as well as the UF/IFAS entomology and nematology department. Students participating are:

  • Peyton Beattie, agricultural education and communication Ph.D. student,
  • Kevin Kent, agricultural education and communication Ph.D. student,
  • Christine Krebs, agricultural education and communication master’s student,
  • Ashley McLeod-Morin, agricultural education and communication Ph.D. student
  • Casey Parker, entomology and nematology Ph.D. student and public health master’s student in the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions, and
  • Teresa Suits, agricultural education and communication master’s student.

For Christine Krebs, this project has allowed her to learn and apply new skillsets, such as creating videos and developing content with scientists for the Skype programming.

“My favorite part about this project is working with other graduate students,” Krebs said. “When we interact, we’re giving one another advice and building on our knowledge. Our teachers have empowered us to learn and utilize our network.”

Krebs is most excited about the future uses of the Skype in the Classroom technology at the university. The project is the first at UF to utilize Skype in the Classroom.

“I love this whole idea of community building with UF scientists and the public,” she said. “It’s easy, accessible and appealing to teachers. The simplicity of this project is that this allows for a conversation with scientists rather than scientists talking at the public.”

Atchison said an additional benefit to The Science of Mosquitoes programming through Skype is the opportunity for middle and high school students to explore careers paths in the biological sciences.

“We aim to provide students who are interested in insects with an enhanced awareness of how to pursue a career in entomology,” she said. “We hope to accomplish this by sharing our experiences and answering any questions they have about how to become an entomologist.”

If you would like to register your classroom to participate in one of The Science of Mosquitoes presentations through Skype in the Classroom, you can register at this link.

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The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) administers the degree programs of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS). The mission of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences is to deliver unsurpassed educational programs that prepare students to address the world’s critical challenges related to agriculture, food systems, human wellbeing, natural resources and sustainable communities. The college has received more total (national and regional combined) USDA teaching awards than any other institution. Visit the CALS website at cals.ufl.edu, and follow CALS on social media platforms at @ufcals.

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